Saturday, December 20, 2008

Continental Airplane Goes Off Runway In Denver

A Continental Airlines jet taking off from Denver veered off the runway into a ravine Saturday night, forcing passengers to evacuate on emergency slides as the plane burned, officials said. Nearly 40 people suffered injuries ranging from broken bones to bumps and bruises.

There were conflicting reports on whether it slid or crashed.

According to Julie King, a spokeswoman with Continental Airlines, flight 1404 from Denver to Houston was trying to take off but "exited" the runway.

King said people were hurt but none of the injuries was serious. The aircraft was a 737 with 107 passengers and five crew members abroad. Crew members activated the evacuation chutes and all passengers made it off the plane safely, airport officials said.

Denver Fire Department Division Chief Patrick Hynes said a fire associated with the accident burned the entire right side of the plane. Melted plastic from the overhead compartments dripped onto the seats down below, he said. It was unknown when or how the fire started.

Firefighters arriving on the scene described it as "surreal." "Much like a movie, some people coming out of the smoke and up the hill," Hynes said.

Ground crews put out the fire quickly, said airport spokesman Jeff Green. The 112 people on board made it out on through slides on the Boeing 737.

No deaths were reported, but 38 people were taken to hospitals, said Kim Day, Denver International Airport manager of aviation. No one was reported in critical condition.

Debris remained on the runway, with the plane about 200 yards away and its landing gear shorn off, Hynes said.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known. The weather in Denver was cold but not snowy when Continental Flight 1404 took off from Denver International Airport for Houston around 6:20 p.m.

The plane veered off course about 2,000 feet from the end of the runway and did not appear to be airborne, Day said.

The plane was carrying 107 passengers and five crew members, said Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark.

A Denver Health official said 10 people were taken there. Eight people were at the University of Colorado hospital, and 10 were treated at The Medical Center of Aurora, but none had life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.

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